The Germans did not want to see other people who did not meet the concept of a master race. Aside from the Jewish people and Romani Jews, they also targeted the mentally ill and disabled. Different doctors would review the medical files to decide if the mentally ill and disabled would need to be euthanized by the Nazis in Germany and Austria. Many of the disabled, including small children and infants were killed in gas chambers. Others were killed by being given deadly doses of drugs. The murderers tried to use the most cost-effective way to kill. Their bodies were burned in large ovens.
Differences in Types of “Camps”
There was a difference tween a concentration camp and an extermination camp. Some of the larger facilities acted as both. Other people, aside from the Jewish people, were put into concentration camps and work camps. It was always the Jewish people who were sent to extermination camps. It was only at times when other groups were sent there.
Unworthy of Life
The Nazis saw people with mental and physical illnesses as “unworthy of life.” This thought led to the mass murder of this group of people disguised as “mercy killings.” The institutions where many of these people lived were transformed into mass killing centers. The SS officers wore lab coats to keep up the phony appearance of a medical program. When family requested information on their loved one, they were told their relative had died from an illness. The family was given fake death certificates. Thousands of people from Germany and Austria were murdered – usually in gas chambers, which were disguised as showers. The organs from the dead were used for experiments.
The T4 Euthanasia Program
The T4 Program, also known as the T4 Euthanasia Program, and Aktion T4 Program was framed as a euthanasia project. They did not have any official names. Instead, it was given the German address where it was located, 4 TiergartenstraBe, Berlin. It was designed to kill the incurably ill, and the physically or mentally disabled, as well as those dealing with emotional disorders. Hitler created this program in 1939. Although it was discontinued in 1941, the killings continued until the military defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Disabled Were Also Sterilized
When the Nazis assumed power, in 1933, they created laws that mandated sterilization for those people with physical and mental issues. Most of the victims were sent to be sterilized due to a vague diagnosis of “feeblemindedness.” other diagnoses included blindness, deafness, epilepsy, and alcoholism. During this time, the Nazis forcibly sterilized approximately 300,000 people.
Odd Letter Received
In 1939 an odd letter from Nazi loyalist Richard Kretschmar arrived at the office of the Nazi Party. The man was trying to reach Hitler directly in hopes of gaining clearance to euthanize his son, Gerhard legally. The young baby boy had severe and incurable physical and mental disabilities, including missing limbs, blindness, and convulsions (interestingly, the original medical records were never found). Kretschmar asked Hitler to let them have this “monster” put down. A doctor checked the child and said he was an “idiot.” He said there was no hope for future improvement. The baby boy was killed by lethal injection. It was recorded as “heart weakness.” This was the beginning of the chapter, which set into motion a plan that would call for the killing of the physically and mentally disabled – not one at a time, but en masse. The Kretschmar “murder” opened a massive operation, unlike anything the world had ever seen. By that summer, hundreds of infants and young children had been removed from homes and healthcare facilities across Germany and taken to one of six sites. After arriving at the new facility, the children were given fatal doses of luminal or morphine. Other times the murder wasn’t so gentle as other children were starved to death.
The Scope Of Aktion T4 Changes
After it was initially started, the scope of Aktion T4 grew larger and included older children and adults with disabilities who could not care for themselves. The methods of killing became more standardized. After people started to wise up about what was going on with the children, a large protest came about. This let Hitler to halt the program in 1941. Estimates differ but the number killed was between 90,000 and 300,000 people. Most of the victims were German or Austrian; half of them were children. Eventually, the program resumed but became a part of the larger programs. Therefore, an accurate accounting of the deaths was difficult to determine.
Tomorrow, Part 3 in this series.